Seaholm Stars, Oak Park Grab Spotlight
By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half
May 30, 2015
ROCKFORD – Rachel DaDamio has had to race in the shadow of Birmingham Seaholm teammate Audrey Belf throughout her high school career.
That’s OK. They’re friends. And don’t worry about DaDamio. She found her time to shine through the raindrops at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Track and Field Final at Rockford High School on Saturday.
DaDamio took her turn in the spotlight as she won the 1,600 run, running first most of the way, with a time of 4:46.05
“It feels so good,” DaDamio said. “I’m used to running in this weather. I run cross country. I really didn’t have a race plan today. No one really wanted to take the lead, so I did. I felt really strong. If they were going catch me, I was going to run my best. I hardly ever take the (early) lead. I run better form behind.
Belf successfully defended her title in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:26.58, won the last two LP Division 1 cross country titles and will be attending Georgetown University in the fall. She also was named high school female Athlete of the Year by the Detroit Athletic Club, so the spotlight has shown brightly on her the last few seasons.
As she noted, DaDamio also was part of the Seaholm cross country team, one of the best in the Midwest recently, and she understands the attention Belf has received.
“Audrey and I are such good friends. Just being a part of this team … we’ve had such strong distance teams at Seaholm. It’s so cool. My teammates are my best friends.”
DaDamio will make new friends in the fall as she’ll attend and run for University of Notre Dame.
Some who gathered around DaDamio after her victory joked she could have gone to Notre Dame even without her success in track. She graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average and never received a B for a grade, or an A-minus.
Belf said running for a program like Seaholm was “so surreal to run with my teammates.
“Rachel ran a great race. I was watching and pulling for her all the way.”
Oak Park finished with 93 points, one more than last year, to win its second consecutive team title. East Kentwood was second with 54.5 points, Northville was next with 43, Rockford placed fourth with 42 points and Ann Arbor Pioneer was fifth with 37.
Oak Park senior Ersula Farrow won the 800 run last year when she attended Grosse Pointe South, and again this year with a time of 2:08.43. The Clemson University recruit also ran on the winning 1,600 and 3,200 relay teams.
Farrow finished among the top five in the 800 all four years of high school.
“I was going for the record,” Farrow said of the 800 run. “I knew it would be hard. I’m satisfied.”
Brianna Holloway won the 300 hurdles with a time of 43.5 to also help Oak Park’s title effort.
One of the surprise winners was Sammy Cuneo of Rockford in the 400 dash. Cuneo, who will attend Center Michigan University in the fall, just began competing in the event this season. And it wasn’t her idea.
“This was like my fifth time (in the 400),” Cuneo said. “I was running the 100 and the 200 but my coach said I was tough and that I could do this. I said, yeah. I’ll prove I’m a 100 runner.”
Good thing Cuneo listened to her coach.
Cuneo entered the finals with the top time (55.44) in all LP Division 1 Regionals, but had to pass defending MHSAA champion Anna Jefferson of Oak Park in the straightaway.
Cuneo also placed second in the 200.
Junior Sekayi Bracey of East Kentwood placed first in three events, the 100 (11.83), 200 (24.62) and the long jump (17 feet, 5¾ inches). They were Bracey’s third consecutive titles in the 100 and the 200.
“I was very tired,” Bracey said after the 200, her third of three individual events. “I was tight. I just got done with the long jump. So that’s a lot.”
Bracey is undefeated in this state in the 100 and 200. Her only losses have come in national events during the high school offseason.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” she said. “I’ve got to learn to relax and just run. I do better that way.”
Events like the 200, 3,200 and the 1,600 relay were especially difficult for the athletes. Even though the rain let up, the wind picked up and the temperatures dropped.
“I didn’t think about it at all,” Farrow said. “I had a feeling it would be hard. I just had to do my best. I’m not sure about my times, but it was tough. The wind is the worst.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Seaholm's Rachel DaDamio leads the pack during her title-winning 1,600 run Saturday. (Middle) Oak Park won a pair of relays en route to repeating as LP Division 1 champion. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com. Photos by John Brabbs.)
Elk Rapids' Schulte Sisters Splitting Finals Weekend Between Tennis, Track
By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com
June 2, 2023
Today began with a bye for Elk Rapids’ Jaida and Brynne Schulte as the Elks returned to the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Girls Tennis Finals in Kalamazoo.
They’re planning to say bye to their tennis teammates, though, when the first day of competition is over. The Elks will have to advance to Saturday without them.
That goodbye is just fine with tennis coach Keith Schulte. And, it will be more than fine with the Elk Rapids track & field team – which will be happy to say hello to the sister pair as they head to their LPD3 Finals in Kent City.
Regardless of how they fare today, the Schulte sisters will run Saturday.
Coach Schulte, who teaches strength and conditioning at Elk Rapids, is also the father of Jaida and Brynne. Today’s he’s beaming with pride, and not just for his tennis team’s success. He’s proud of all the student-athletes and their successes this spring, including the girls soccer team moving on to Regionals with a 2-0 win Thursday over Boyne City.
And while all this is going on, he should have a moment or two to just be Dad. Jaida and Brynne teamed up to win the No. 2 doubles title at their Regional as the Elks tied for first place with Traverse City St. Francis two weeks ago. Then the Schulte girls captured first place in the Regional track meet to qualify for Saturday’s Finals. Brynne won the 1,600 and 3,200, and Jaida’s 3,200 relay team took first to move on.
Coach Schulte hasn’t had much time to pause and soak in the moment of his daughters’ qualifying for two Finals competitions during the same season.
“I didn’t think much of it until now,” the fourth-year coach said. “I’ve always just challenged my kids to do something difficult and not be scared to fail.
“They’ve just kind of found the balance on making this stuff happen,” he continued. “It is a pretty cool opportunity if you can go to two state championships.”
Getting to today’s Tennis Finals is a story full of success. The Elks’ first year under Schulte was halted after a week of practice due to the pandemic. The second year saw the team looking at a season with just nine potential players, but recruitment efforts resulted in the 2021 Elks managing to qualify for the Finals for the first time in their history.
Elk Rapids went on to win the Regional championship in 2022. And then, after graduating six athletes, the Elks were able to repeat this spring with a valiant effort resulting in the co-championship with their conference rival St. Francis.
Dual-sport standouts, while rare, aren’t entirely unheard of – especially at the state’s smaller schools where athletes frequently are needed to fill rosters in multiple sports during the same season. In fact, the Schultes aren’t even alone on their tennis team – sisters Ryleigh and Haleigh Yocum also are playing doubles today but softball on Saturday.
The Yocums won the Regional title at No. 2 doubles and also are slated to be the Elks’ first two batters as they take on Mancelona as one of the favorites to win a Division 3 District title on the softball diamond.
“I do feel bad for them – it’s states,” said 14-year veteran softball coach Erin Merchant. “I do want them to have that opportunity.
“I hope they go far,” she continued. “But then deep down, I’m like, ‘We need them Saturday.’”
Tim Nance and Jesse Way are in their first year co-coaching the boys and girls track teams at ER. They’re pleased the Schultes are prioritizing track while enjoying tennis.
“I think it is remarkable how resilient, laid back and casual the girls are about their success,” Nance said. “I would say it hasn’t compromised their talent, hard work and success.
“I think it has worked out great,” he continued. “I am selfish and I want them to myself only, but I am happy they can have two successes.”
The Elks will have Ayva Johnstone at No. 1 singles, Kelly Minidis and No. 2, Morgan Bergquist at No. 3 and Jasmine King at No. 4 this weekend. They also will have No. 1 doubles Chloe Taylor and Caroline Best and No. 4 doubles Tessa Nico and Portia Beebe, in addition to the Yokums and Schultes.
Jaida Schulte is a junior. She’s one of the recruits who joined to help the Elks get to their first Tennis Finals in 2021. Bergquist and Beebe were recruits in 2022.
Tennis is the favorite sport today for those three, but track and cross country are right up there for Jaida thanks to the opportunity to run with her freshman sister Brynne.
Jaida is hoping to at least match her personal-record split of 2:36 in the 3,200 relay Saturday. But her goal was first to win all of her doubles matches Friday and see the tennis team finish top-five in its division.
“Brynne loves track, and I love the challenge of running,” Jaida said. “I don’t think I would have the experience of running track or cross country without Brynne.”
Coaches saw very little disruption, if any, with their track, softball and tennis teams this spring with the Yocums and Schultes dual-sporting. The Schultes were able to get track and tennis practice or competition most every day.
“I prioritized track,” Brynne said. “I also got a lot of hitting time in for tennis.
“I would go to track practice first, and as soon as I would be done I would run over to the tennis courts and hit with my sister for a half an hour before going home,” she continued. “It has been worth it.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Elk Rapids sisters Brynne (left) and Jaida Schulte have teamed up at No. 3 doubles for the tennis team this season. (Middle) Brynne Schulte sets to start a track relay. (Below) The Schultes helped the Elks to their first two Regional titles in tennis, including their second straight this spring. (Photos courtesy of Jaclyn Schulte.)